Prosecutors: Bar speculation that others, not Coley McCraney, killed Dothan teens

The court motion is in response to rumors and unfounded theories—dozens of them that have circulated for two decades.
Coley McCraney as he's led into the Dale County courthouse. He's charged with the murders of...
Coley McCraney as he's led into the Dale County courthouse. He's charged with the murders of Dothan teens Tracie Hawlett and J.B. Beasley.
Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 9:56 PM CST
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -Prosecutors hope a Dale County judge will bar what they term “improper” evidence during the much-anticipated murder trial of Coley McCraney, charged with shooting two high school female students more than 20 years ago.

“Speculation as to what, why, who and how the murders were committed by either another person or class of people such as law enforcement officers, drug violators, carnival workers and government officials” should be excluded, a motion filed by Dale County Assistant District Attorney David Emery on Monday states.

That motion is in response to rumors—dozens of them that have circulated for two decades and could be used by McCraney’s attorneys to sway jurors.

McCraney is accused in the 1999 shootings of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett, 17-year-olds from Dothan whose bodies were found in the trunk of their car. Beasley had been molested, per Ozark police who investigated their deaths.

Not until 2019, when a Virginia lab reported that his DNA matched evidence found at the crime scene in Ozark, was McCraney arrested.

He became the second man charged with killing Hawlett and Beasley.

A month after the murders, Johnny William Barrentine gave conflicting accounts of the incident to police who ultimately released him after concluding he did not kill the girls. Barrentine has since died.

Prosecutors want Barrentine’s statements to police, along with persistent speculation that an Ozark police officer killed the teens, prohibited during the trial.

They also seek to have statements made by Hilton Beasley, J.B. Beasley’s father, barred. During a hearing, he speculated that the mafia, not McCraney, killed his daughter.

Attorney David Harrison, who represents McCraney, had not responded to the motion as of late Monday.

It’s unclear when Dale County Circuit Judge William Filmore will rule.

McCraney, 47, expected to be tried in May 2022, faces capital murder and rape charges.

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